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OT: resume formats

John Chambers wrote:
> Sometimes I've gotten them into a discussion of the problem
> of "deleted" text in Word docs that is still there. This is
> something that they usually haven't heard of, and they  get
> rather  worried when I describe it.  Rightly so, of course,
> since they should wonder what sort of hidden text they  are
> sending out when they email a Word doc.
> (I wonder if Open Office solves this problem? It should, of
> course, if only to save the bandwidth. And nobody needs the
> surprise of finding that fragments of other  messages  have
> been  sent  out  to  someone whose mail reader displays the
> "deleted" text.)

As it happens, this is actually caused by a feature that people want: undo capability that works across editing sessions. Word keeps deleted content in .DOC files so that it can put it back if you undo the change that deleted it.

What this really illustrates is the difference between an appropriate application-specific format and an appropriate document distribution format. The former has no need to be open, and may in fact have to contain application-specific data in order to implement the specific features of the app that creates it. The latter should be an open standard, and should not contain any data that is outside the standard, assuring that all standard-compliant applications can use it. Word .DOC is NOT an appropriate distribution format, and should never be used for that purpose.

Microsoft actually did create a format intended for distribution: RTF (Rich Text Format). But they failed to follow up appropriately; most notably, they have made no effort to educate users about the difference between a distribution format and an internal format, and have actually promoted the use of .DOC files in inappropriate ways (most notably, the way that you can set up Outlook to use Word as its mail editor, and mail .DOC files by default).

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